Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category


When the scoutmaster of Troop 68 retired at the end of 2011, the troop committee thought it would be a good idea to throw a retirement party. The party, which was held in February, was well attended. Former troop members from the past 30 years came from as far as a hundred miles away to visit with their retired Scout leader and other troop members. Some of the members had not seen each other for many years. There was a lot of reminiscing and catching up.

Of course, there was a recognition program (which was featured in the previous video of Melrose Scout Productions). Then came the time for anyone to go to the microphone to speak about being a Boy Scout or sharing a story from years gone by. Many of the former troop members took advantage of the opportunity to talk about their Scouting experiences and to maybe speak from the heart of what being a Boy Scout in Scoutmaster Steve’s troop meant to them now that they are adults themselves.

This video is the second of four parts of the retirement party. It is the first of two which feature the former Boy Scouts of Troop 68 as they came to the microphone. One father also decided to share his feelings about the Scouting program in Melrose.

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    I had been curious for a couple of weeks what the committee had planned for the retirement party. They had been very quiet whenever I was nearby. A great example of this was at the February committee meeting. I make the agenda so I listed the party under old business thinking they night bring up a few things that needed to be discussed. When the time came up one committee member passed a sheet of paper to the new scoutmaster and, well, that was it. There was not a discussion, not a word was said. My attempt to get information had failed.

    Finally, the day of the party had arrived. It began at 2:00 in the afternoon with the Boy Scouts, their families, and a few troop alumni present, but people kept coming in. Shortly after 2:45 the Scenic District executive asked people to have a seat, that the program would soon begin. The five rows of tables were not quite filled but soon would be. At 3:00 the district executive, Bob Rueter, called the room to attention and asked everyone to face the flag, and to join him in the Pledge Of Allegiance. Eymard Orth, my assistant scoutmaster of 24 years and the current troop chaplain, gave the invocation.

    Mr. Rueter began the ceremony with the presentation of the last leader’s knot I earned as the troop’s scoutmaster, the Unit Leader Award of Merit, followed by a brief speech about his years working with me. Mr. Orth took the podium next sharing stories of our Scouting experiences. Mark Ettel, the troop’s new scoutmaster, spoke for a few minutes and then asked the current Boy Scouts to come forward. He asked me to joined them and gave me a Norman Rockwell print of the Boy Scout standing in front of the flag of the United States of America, as seen with this post.

    Mr. Ettel opened the floor for anyone to come forward to say a few words or share a story. Eleven former members of the troop took the opportunity to come to the podium. Every decade of the thirty years was represented. (Watch the Melrose Scout Productions Podcast for upcoming videos of these speeches.)

    It was time for me to step up to the microphone. I joked that I could tell a story about everyone of the Scouts present but that we did not have time for that. I did thank the VFW Post 7050 for sponsoring the troop during the last 32 years. I also thanked the American Legion and the Lions Club for supporting the Scouting program. I thanked the parents, especially those who served on the committee and as assistant scoutmasters. Finally, I thanked all the boys and young men who were members of Boy Scout Troop 68 throughout the years. After all, they were they main reason I stayed on as scoutmaster for over 363 months.

    I ended my talk by explaining that I had tried to quit at least four times but for some reason I always changed my mind. It was much nicer to be able to say “I retired” then “I quit”.

    The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting with people and former troop members. All in all, it was a great afternoon.

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      I was a twenty-three year old scoutmaster when I attended a week of training at the Philmont Training Center in 1984. One evening, the staff brought out a reel to reel movie projector and we watched a movie from Disney titled Follow Me Boys. I really enjoyed the movie, as did everyone else in the dining hall that night.

      One of the things that stood out from the movie in my mind was that Lem Siddons’ Boy Scout troop had a building to call its home. A club house, if you will. I thought it would be great for my troop to have a place to call home, but alas, it was not to be for Troop 68 of Melrose. Even after thirty years we still have no place to call home. Not even a meeting room of our own.

      Troop 68 holds their meetings at the Jaycee Park during the summer months, May through September. During the colder months we meet at St. Mary’s School gym. Both places have worked well for us. We plan our meeting activities and games to fit the place we are meeting that month. The park works well for outdoor skills and open air games. The gym is large enough to break into various groups for skill development and is a natural area for indoor competitions.

      Unfortunately, neither place is really a “home” for the troop. We cannot leave troop gear at either place. We cannot leave troop photos, awards, or advancement charts hanging on the walls. We do not have a place to store the troop library or the flags and stands.

      The closest thing to a troop home is my house. The troop gear is stored in a shed in my backyard. The group photos hang on the walls of my stairway and recreation room. One wall is dedicated to the Troop 68 Eagle Scouts. The troop library currently has a spot in a closet. The troop flags and stands are kept in the garage or the trunk of the scoutmaster’s vehicle. My rec room has been the site of patrol leader council and committee meetings for the last fourteen years.

      It would be nice to have a meeting place of our own, or a club house like Lem’s troop. But then, we would also probably have monthly heating, electrical, and water bills. We would have building maintenance costs. We would need to carry property insurance. In other words, we would probably need another yearly fundraiser or two just to pay for this place.

      Yes, it might be nice to have a place to call home, but we have done well with the places we do use. The boys enjoy their meetings (usually). If we had a different meeting place they may not be able to play the rough and tumble games they are so found of. What would a meeting be if the Scouts could not hurl balls at each other during some point of the evening?

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        It has been over 25 years since 1985 came to an end. It was a busy year for the Boy Scouts of Melrose Troop 68. They went to winter camp at Parker Scout Reservation, attended the council’s Ripley Rendezvous at Camp Ripley, held a spring pancake and sausage breakfast fundraiser, went to camp Watchamagumee in the early spring, hopped onto their bicycles for a weekend outing in June, attended summer camp at Tomahawk Scout Camp in Wisconsin, visited the Minnesota Renaissance Festival in September, took part in a city’s emergency drill in October, and even found time to hold a few courts of honor. Like I said, it was a busy but very fun year. Here is a slideshow featuring pictures from those events.

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          Cooking on a Boy Scout camping trip can be an interesting experience, especially with young inexperienced campers. I have seen many burned pancakes, half raw hamburgers, and overturned pots during my days as a scoutmaster. When I am eating something crunchy that really should not be crunchy I am reminded of a camping trip from my days as a youth…

          My troop was attending a district camporee one weekend when I was in my early teens. We were sitting around the campfire ring about to eat our meal. Our scoutmaster, Dr. Scanlan, was sitting next to me. There was a small amount of dirt on my food. I do not remember how it got there, if the patrol cook had done something during preparing the meal, or if I had kicked some dirt onto the plate somehow. I do remember I was not interested in eating this food with its “natural” seasoning. I was a very picky eater and this was not helping the situation.

          I made a fuss and commented that I was not going to eat this stuff. My scoutmaster heard me and replied that a little dirt would not kill me. Then he added something that I will never forget. He said, “A person will eat an average of seven pounds of dirt during his lifetime.”

          I am not ashamed to say that I was surprised and shocked by the statement. I did not know if he was telling the truth, or if he had just made it up. He was a doctor, after all. He would know about these things.  I do recall my reply to him. I looked at him, and at my food, and said, “I don’t want to add to that seven pounds.”

          I do not remember if I ate the food that day or not. I probably did because I was hungry. I have since come to the conclusion though that if you are a scoutmaster you will eat a lot more than seven pounds of dirt in your lifetime.

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            In 1996, following a September court of honor, the troop surprised me with a little ceremony for the fifteenth anniversary of being the scoutmaster of Troop 68. After a few speeches by committee members and Boy Scouts I was presented with a book of letters from former and current Scouts, and from some of the parents. For some reason I was a little nostalgic tonight so I pulled out that book and looked through it. I had to smile to myself when reading some of the letters from the younger Boy Scouts. A few memories were brought back when I read the letters from the former troop members.

            One of the letters stuck out in the way that it was written. It was a poem. It covered so much of this young man’s years as a Boy Scout of Troop 68, including times he worked with me on film productions at Mel-TV and the times we played a little roll playing game you may know. I could tell he spent some time trying to get things in this poem just right. Here is that poem:

            Steve, Scoutmaster, Film Director, and Friend.
            Here is a few words about you and Scouting,

            It was fun going to movies in your gray Citation
            and messing around waiting at the Cimmerron train station.
            Bobby’s Biking Blunders and Warning of the Ring,
            All those campfires we would act out skits and sing.
            Monday night meetings at the Jaycee park,
            and in St. Mary’s gym in the winter when it got dark.
            British Bulldogs, Dodgeball, and Capture the Flag too,
            it was rough at times but we managed to pull through.
            Playing D&D and eating snacks till the wee hours of the night,
            Climbing Mount Baldy at Philmont sure was a sight.
            From Star Trekking across the universe
            to selling breakfast tickets. It could be worse.
            Looking back, I sure am glad
            at all the exciting adventures we have had.
            Without looking too far it is easy to see
            that “Watchamagumee is the camp for me”.
            I still try to do a good turn daily.
            Being prepared has always helped me.
            As for pushups… Let’s just say…
            I don’t swear that much anyway.

            Thanks for everything and all the memories.
            Happy 15th year of Scouting and a good job.
            Josh

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              I am sure you have already had the conversation in your troop. How can we be more “green” and eco-friendly? The Boy Scouts have been discussing this long before it became socially fashionable. Take a look at Leave No Trace, for example. Or the points of the Outdoor Code.

              I recently received and email featuring a story about the generational differences of being green. I am sure this has been circulating about the internet for awhile already, but it was the first time I had seen it. I enjoyed reading it so I thought I would share it with you. I may even use this as a scoutmaster minute at the end of a troop meeting.

              (Unfortunately, I do not know the author of this story.)

              The Green Thing

              Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own grocery bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment. The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.” The clerk responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

              She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

              Back then, we returned milk bottles, soda bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled. But we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

              We walked up stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

              Back then, we washed the baby’s diapers because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts — wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

              Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the state of Montana . In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.

              We drank from a fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn’t have the green thing back then.

              Back then, people took the streetcar or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

              But isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks
              were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?

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                Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed puppets. One year for Christmas my parents gave me a Howdy Doody ventriloquist doll. I was a big fan of the Muppet Show. I enjoy watching Jeff Dunham and his pals.

                During the last few years I have made several videos featuring a puppet call Buttons, the radical Boy Scout. Buttons has talked about the Scout Oath, the Scout Law, and being physically fit. He also loves a good joke or two. While there are over a dozen videos featuring Buttons, he is not the first puppet to star in a video of mine.

                In the late 1980′s, I was taping courts of honor and troop activities for Mel-TV, our local cable access television station. Some of the Boy Scouts would act in a few of the original short films I created. One of those movies was The Puppets Must Die, which involved puppets coming to life to kill people. It was like a Twilight Zone episode. Two Boy Scouts played the main roles in the film. The climax was to be a battle between the good puppet and the evil puppet.

                Unfortunately, we were only able to film the first half of the movie before we ran out of time and life got in the way. Only one puppet’s scenes were filmed. A third Boy Scout acted as our puppeteer. I thought he did an excellent job of bringing Gruber to life. Some of tricks we learned while filming The Puppets Must Die were later used during the videos featuring Buttons twenty years later.

                I recently posted The Puppets Must Die to our troop’s website. If you would like to view our first experiment in puppet entertainment check out http://www.melrosetroop68.org/videopuppets.html .

                Sorry, but there are no plans to finish this film.

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